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Sports car races to Android for in-vehicle infotainment

Sep 4, 2013 — by Eric Brown 963 views

U.K.-based car manufacturer McLaren is adding an Android-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system to its 2013 MP4-12C sports car based on Parrot’s Asteroid system. The Formula One inspired racer’s updated IRIS IVI system introduces new features like Pandora radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and voice controlled music selection.

Multiple automotive publications, including DragTimes, picked up on a McLaren Life forum post by forum member MP4GASM, who reported on a 2014 MP4-12C model running an Android IVI system. The high-end sports car was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance racing event last week, and was formally announced on Aug. 30.

2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider
(click image to enlarge)


According to DragTimes, the new IRIS IVI system was developed after a mounting tide of complaints about the earlier, often buggy IRIS system. The previous IVI vendor “went belly up” only about a month ago, says MP4GASM. The new system is being offered as an option, as well as an upgrade replacement at cost, which is said to be about $1,800. The earlier IRIS IVI option was said to cost $6,400.


According to MP4GASM’s forum post, the system is based on Parrot’s Asteroid, an Android 2.3-based IVI system for after-market sales. Like the Asteroid, the WiFi-enabled IRIS system in the 2014 MP4-12C offers Bluetooth audio streaming and contact lookup from an iPhone. Other features not found on the earlier system include the ability to tether a smartphone to IRIS. The capacitive touchscreen is said to be much more accurate and responsive than the earlier resistive model.

McLaren MP4-12C Android IVI user interface screens
(click images to enlarge; source: DragTimes)


A standard Android browser is provided along with pre-installed apps including Browser, Maps, Weather, and the TuneIn Internet radio app. The latter can be activated by voice, letting users name an artist or album in order to play a song. A navigation app is also available.

“Overall, it’s a big step in the right direction, and running Android with built-in WiFi will make it really easy to update the OS in the future, without having to bring the car in to McLaren,” writes MP4GASM. “Most functions loaded very fast, and the touch screen is a massive improvement. It’s the most well-connected system that I’ve personally been able to play with.”

Parrot’s Asteroid

The Asteroid was one of the first of a still small number of Android-based IVI systems to reach market, and like most of them, it’s aimed at after-market sales. Parrot, which also makes the Android-powered AR.Drone quadrocopter now sells three IVI models: a $233 Asteroid Mini with a 3.2-inch screen, WiFi, Bluetooth, and a navigation option; a $350 Asteroid Tablet, which offers similar features, but provides a 5-inch multitouch screen; and the $460 Asteroid Smart, a 2-DIN standard model with a 6.2-inch multitouch screen, integrated navigation, and support for reversing (rear-view) cameras. (Parrot’s Asteroid Smart is pictured at the right; click to view a larger image.)

All these systems appear to offer functionality similar to that attributed to McClaren’s new IRIS system. The MP4-12C’s IRIS device uses what appears to be about a 5-inch screen in a vertical orientation.

Further info

The MP4-12C is one of the fastest commercially available sports cars in the world. The 2013 model is built around a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 with 616 horsepower, and can do 0 to 60mph in 2.8 seconds. The bad news: it costs about $240,000. To configure and purchase your very own McLaren MP4-12C (or simply daydream about getting one), go here.

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